Most homeschooling parents I know are book lovers! We can’t imagine not reading and long for our children to enjoy the same. Truthfully, in 13 years of home education, I don’t think any ‘lesson’ has brought me greater joy than watching the light-bulbs come on with reading. One of my children picked it up so easily I couldn’t believe there were any illiterate folks in the world. The other child struggled. Years down the road, the one who struggled is a voracious reader and the other will read if there is no other option. Interestingly, the child who learned to read the words found comprehension far more complicated. This is just a brief little piece to encourage those of you in the throes of reading instruction.
When difficulties present themselves in reading, vision is the obvious first concern. While there are some ‘eye tracking’ activities that can be done at home, a visit to the optometrist is a good idea. With physical considerations out of the way, Phonics is the next building block. Many excellent programs exist to teach the basics of decoding the English language. There is no magic bullet or simple short-cut. Time and practice – and continually seeking ways to make the learning fun are critical. Involving different senses is always a good technique. Cut letters out of play-dough, sand paper or even carve them with soap. Use crayon soaps in the bath-tub, write words with blanks to fill in and draw little critters inside animal words. Whatever will make your child smile and keep trying is a major aspect of reading instruction.
Sight-reading—basic memorization—is the next block to stack into your reading efforts. Flash cards, more word pictures (i.e. draw eye-lashes on each of the e(s) in eye or ears on the c of cat). Gradually the words will be recognized without the add-ons but the fun will help the time pass until that happens. Offer little ideas to prompt the memory—point out that ‘h’ looks like a chair and when your student reaches ‘the’ and can’t remember say, “oh my I like THE chair.” You may repeat your hints a few times but the message eventually gets through. Stay patient, stay persistent and know that reading will come.
Finally, reading comprehension can be a hidden challenge. Students, like my oldest, may be able to master all the basics and read most anything put before them—but never really ‘get it.’ Utilizing reading comprehension workbooks did not reveal it for us. Diagramming sentences did not avoid it. High school level reading unveiled the challenge to us. In hind-sight, using story-boards and webs would probably have helped us avert the difficulty. Our remedial program included hard work with creating questions for text-books as the reading took place—rather than waiting until the end of articles. Encouraging immediate access of the dictionary for unknown words (rather than just reading on) became standard. Writing summaries of assigned readings, discussing passages orally and regular progress check-ups brought our son’s comprehension to the level he needs to function well in high school.
Final suggestions are what you already know. Read all the time. Read books to them, let them read to you or encourage reading to their pet (or favorite stuffed animal). A number of reading incentive programs abound in most areas. The local library will be a great ally in your efforts. The Pizza Hut Book It program (free pizzas for goals met) was a favorite for our children. A state-sponsored program in our home state provided great recreational opportunities in conjunction with reading. Check out the options available to you and your students and ENJOY the worlds books open.
- Billie Jo